by Lynn on April 15, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Young People’s Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written by L. Frank Baum
Based on the film.
Music by Harold Arlen
Lyrics by E. Y. Harburg
Directed by Joey Tremblay
Musical Arrangements by Allen Cole
Musical Direction by Reza Jacobs
Choreography by Dayna Tekatch
Set by David Boechler
Costumes by Robin Fisher
Lighting by Louise Guinand
Cast: Justin Bolt
Matthew G. Brown
Nathan Carroll
David Coomber
Jonathan Ellul
Omar Forrest
Alana Hibbert
Amy Matysio
Jamie McRoberts
Vanessa Sears

A charming, unfussy production of this most beloved of musicals.

The Story. Is there anyone in the free world who does not know this story? Ok. Dorothy is a sweet young girl about 10 years old who lives with her Auntie Em and her Uncle Henry in Kansas. Interesting that we don’t know about her parents, but I digress. Her best friend is her dog, Toto. Toto aggravates the town witchy-woman who threatens to take him, so Dorothy and Toto scram and hide.

Unfortunately there is a tornado warning and Dorothy is caught in it. This leads to Dorothy being transported to some imagined land with a good witch (Glinda) and a bad witch, (Wicked Witch), flying monkeys and a Wizard who seems to know everything. Dorothy needs to see the Wizard to find out how to get back home.

Dorothy meets three ‘people’ along the way who also need to see the Wizard. The Scarecrow wants a brain; the Tinman wants a heart; the Lion wants courage. They believe the Wizard will show them the way. In the end they realize they already had what they needed inside them. In Dorothy’s case her home was there with her Auntie and Uncle and the three farm hands who loved her.

The Production. Director, Joey Tremblay has created an efficient, unfussy production that is true to the heart of the show. Songs that were cut from the film are reinstated here.

How do you create a tornado without all sorts of glitzy pyrotechnics? Tremblay has his lighting designer, the estimable Louise Guinand, create a spiral effect on the stage floor that swirls our imagination into imagining a tornado funnel. Characters move the furniture around and the accompanying percussive sound of knocking and banging does the rest.

In a lovely piece of business that goes from ‘reality’ to ‘fantasy’ Nathan Carroll manipulates a simple Toto puppet when in Kansas and then Carroll becomes an agile Toto himself when they are in the magical world of Oz.

Oz is a colourful place with an annoying, irritable Wicked Witch who bedevils Dorothy and her three friends and a gracious, calm good witch named Glinda who helps them at every turn. Oz is that magical, ‘grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side-of-the-hill place, until you realize it isn’t. With his thoughtful, simple production Joey Tremblay creates the place where you realize you had what you missed all the time.

The cast is joyous, sweet and true. Beginning with Vanessa Sears as Dorothy, we have a buoyant, sparky girl who sticks up for what she thinks is right and stares down what she thinks is wrong. Sears also has a lovely vulnerability and a fine voice.

Her valiant cohorts in sweetness are: a very malleable David Coomber as The Scarecrow, a stalwart Matthew G. Brown as the Tinman, and a quietly resilient Justin Bolt as the Lion.

Amy Matysio is deliciously evil as the Wicked Witch while Jamie McRoberts is laidback and confident as Glinda the good witch.

I would have expected Dorothy to see the three farm hands at the end of her story, when she ‘got back home’ who were the Scarecrow, the Tinman and the Lion, but Tremblay didn’t have that final touch. No damage done by that omission, just a comment.

Comment. The Wizard of Oz is a perfect way to end the 50th anniversary season of Young People’s Theatre, bringing the best theatre, with stories that speak to all young people as they go through life. The show is appropriately beloved because it reveals the best about people, their kindness, friendship, caring, respect and love.

Presented by Young People’s Theatre.

Opened: April 7, 2016.
Closes: May 15, 2016.
Cast: 10; 6 men, 4 women
Running Time: 90 minutes.

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